Carlos E. Medina reports for the Ocala Star Banner – “State road planners indicated… they were open to scrapping the proposed routes for the Coastal Connector road project that would cut through Marion County’s horse country and start over… For the first time since unveiling the proposed routes in late April, the state said the road’s primary purpose is to connect Tampa with Jacksonville. Previously, the Florida Department of Transportation stressed more general benefits of the road, including… improved evacuation routes. ‘This will have some benefit to I-75, but that’s not the main objective. Just like hurricane evacuation. There is a need, but that’s not the primary purpose,’ said Steve Schnell, one of the engineers working with the state on the project.” Read FDOT open to other Coastal Connector routes
Anthony Adragna reports for Politico – “House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) and Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) are aiming to strike a deal to allow offshore drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico if the U.S. military and federal government sign off, but it remains uncertain if their effort can convince Florida lawmakers to drop their sharp opposition to oil exploration off the state’s coast… [S]enior Interior and Defense officials briefed a working group of lawmakers from five Gulf Coast states who are seeking to expand energy exploration… And the Utah Republican says he plans to draft legislative language on offshore oil and gas drilling that he hopes to incorporate in either the National Defense Authorization Act H.R. 5515 (115) or a broad energy package H.R. 4239 (115). ‘There are some areas where if there’s sufficient agreement between Interior and Defense so it doesn’t impact the military mission, they can work that out,’ Bishop told POLITICO… Some members of the Florida delegation have voiced openness toward allowing some drilling in the region provided the agencies sign off on it… And the interest in the eastern Gulf is likely to be mainly in deepwater areas rather than shallower waters close to shore… Three Florida Republicans – Reps. Matt GAetz, Francis Rooney and Gus Bilirakis – attended the… meeting… ‘We’ve received some encouraging assurances by the Administration…,’ Bilrakis told POLITICO… ‘However, as these latest conversations indicate, we must remain vigilant to ensure current protections remain in place for an extended period of time.’” Read Scalise, Bishop aim for deal to open eastern Gulf Coast waters for drilling
Jeremy Dillon reports for Roll Call – “Florida’s House is preparing to throw its weight around to win a multiyear extension of a moratorium off its coasts. The bipartisan commitment from the third largest congressional delegation… may affect the $708.1 billion defense authorization bill…That must-pass defense measure as well as a comprehensive public lands energy bill moving out of the House Natural Resources Committee could be a vehicle for an amendment to extend the moratorium… Republicans in the delegation have so far prevented the House Natural Resources’ public lands energy bill from reaching the House floor because it does not address the issue, Republican Rep. Francis Rooney said… [O]ne potential compromise discussed… (Rep.) Gaetz said, could be an amendment to the defense authorization bill that would give the Defense Department veto power over certain oil activities in the eastern Gulf… Two amendments have already been filed to the Rules Committee for consideration during the defense authorization debate. One, from Florida Democrats Charlie Crist and Darren Soto, would extend the moratorium until 2029. The other, from Rooney and Florida Democrat Kathy Castor, would put in place a permanent ban on offshore oil activities in the eastern Gulf and Straits of Florida off the state’s southern tip.” Read Florida Delegation Playing Hardball to Extend Offshore Drilling Moratorium
Brad Bautista reports for the Citrus County Chronicle – “The 15th Florida panther death of the year was announced… The remains of the uncollared 2.5-year-old male panther… were collected… on I-75 near the State Road 29 exit in Collier County. The panther reportedly died after being struck by a vehicle.” Read Fifteenth panther death of the year recorded
Sean Kinane reports for WMNF – “The giant fertilizer company Mosaic announced… that it plans to move its corporate headquarters from Minnesota to Hillsborough County… [E]nvironmentalists, like Suncoast Waterkeeper Andy Mele, accuse Mosaic of being a detriment to the community. ‘… [T]hey come to town, they burrow in like a parasite, they build a rodeo arena or – ironically a nature center – and then they apply to strip mine 10,15, 20 percent of your land. Land that’s currently [nature] habitat, agriculture, jobs. And they strip mine it into ruins that are barren for hundreds of years… If any county government dares to say ‘no,’ they sue you for those – presumably – lost revenues. And they’re more than happy to bankrupt your county. They tried to do that to Manatee County. They’ve been bullying their way through the so-called Bone valley… They’re just not good neighbors…’… ‘… Huge mounts of toxic, hazardous and radioactive waste. Twenty-four of them: Huge, huge mountains – like a square mile footprint that they’re not going to deal with. That the future generations are going to have to deal with… Right now Mosaic is so fly-by-night. They have one office up in Lithia, I think and a couple of shell houses in the counties where they’re mining where the same people who go to all these county commission hearings for the permit applications dutifully list their addresses – their home addresses – as these Mosaic shell houses. You never see a car in the drive-way. They’re just ridiculous. It’s like nobody notices… Hillsborough County should wake up to the fact that there are thousands of people who are reporting unusual illnesses. Illnesses that bear a very suspicious resemblance to the sorts of illnesses that are listed on the Material Safety Data Sheets and the [Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry] ATSDR’s data sheets for a whole variety of toxic substances that come out of the phosphate process and get piled up in these big mountains…’” Read Environmentalist wary of Mosaic moving corporate headquarters to Hillsborough
Tyler Treadway reports for the TC Palm – “The chairman of a key House of Representatives committee is ‘committed’ to getting the reservoir to cut Lake Okeechobee discharges through Congress this year. U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster, who heads the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, also urged the Army Corps of Engineers chief to speed up its approval of the project… The reservoir project has to be included in the [Water Resources and Development Act], known as the WRDA, to get federal funding.” Read U.S. House committee chairman commits to Lake Okeechobee reservoir
George Diaz reports for the Orlando Sentinel – “Bohler, 59, spent five years (2005-2010) with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission as a bear response agent before resigning, mostly in disgust, over the bear euthanasia policy. He had enough of killing bears, not trying to save them. He remains on the front lines as an activist, and testified in a court hearing three weeks before the state-sanctioned bear hunt in 2015, in which 295 bears were killed. We caught up at the Copacana Cuban Café…” Read Coffee with George: Fred Bohler, black bear expert and environmentalis
George Lindemann writes for the Orlando Sentinel – “A Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute study published in 2013 determined that wildlife viewing (excluding hunting) had a nearly $5 billion impact on Florida’s economy. Orlando needs to retain and enhance its share of this ever-expanding ecotourism industry. U.S. Rep. Darren Soto has authored H.R. 3961 to begin the process of designating the Kissimmee River as a Wild and Scenic River… Maybe the federal designation will help limit development and runoff from cattle farms. The details of the final bill will determine whether or not the designation will be meaningful. Urban growth makes nature that much more valuable. We have a whole lot less nature, so it’s worth a whole lot more… Why not seek a federal designation for the St. Johns River? Or the Peace River?... Our Legislature has approved $50 million for springs protection. Let’s do more… We live in a business-friendly state, and ecotourism is big business. It also just happens to be very good for the quality of our lives.” Read Do more to protect the Kissimmee River – and our quality of life
From Our Readers
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Upcoming Environmental Events
June 2, 10:00 AM – Join the FCC for a Beach Clean Up & Celebration in Jacksonville Beach. The Celebration at 5:00 pm features BBQ, vendors, and a charity raffle benefiting the FCC. For more information, click here.
June 4 – June 23 – Solar United Neighbors is hosting several solar co-op information sessions around Florida throughout the next few months. Attendees will learn about solar equipment, financing, and the benefits of joining a solar co-op. For a complete list of sessions, click here.
June 5, 12:00 PM – Attend Springs Academy Tuesdays, a lunchtime lecture series on Florida’s springs, in High Springs. June’s lecture is on “Water Chemistry – General, Nutrients, Trace Contaminants” with Chemist, Lisa Saupp. All lectures are free and open to the public. A recommended donation of $5 is appreciated. For more information click here or call (386) 454-9369.
June 8- June 10 – Attend Give Springs a Break in High Springs. Give Springs a Break is an educational retreat for students and young professionals. Along with creative skill workshops and fun activities, students will have the opportunity to learn from leading environmental scientists and advocates about freshwater and Florida’s springs. Admission to the event includes camping, kayaking, swimming, snorkeling, tubing, spring-side yoga, meals, and a reusable event bag. For more information and to buy your tickets, click here.
June 16, 10:00 am – Join the Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute on a paddle outing exploring the Weeki Wachee River and Springs. Kayak/canoe rental with shuttle is $35 and shuttle only is $20. A boat launch fee of $6 will also apply. For more information and to register, contact Adventure Outpost at (386) 454 – 0611.
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About the FCC: The Florida Conservation Coalition (FCC) is composed of over 80 conservation-minded organizations and over two thousand individuals devoted to protecting and conserving Florida’s land, fish and wildlife, and water resources.
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